Andrew Berkshire picks out his four best NHL bets for Game 1 of the Western Conference Final between the Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights.
After the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers took the first game of the Eastern Conference Final to the brink of a fifth overtime period before Matthew Tkachuk scored the game-winning goal, can the beginning of the Western Conference Final live up to that? The Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights hope to answer that question in a rematch of the Western Conference Final from 2020, which Dallas took 4-1.
Dallas Stars to beat Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights may have slayed the dragon that was the Edmonton Oilers, but a big reason for that was a combination of good fortune and some egregiously bad calls, both by officials and the league. Not to take anything away from them, they’re a great team, but the Stars lead the entire postseason in expected goals for percentage at 5-vs-5.
Unlike the Oilers, who were also among the league leaders in that metric, the Stars have Jake Oettinger in goal. Oettinger isn’t performing at the level he did last postseason, but he’s still one of the league’s best goaltenders, something the Golden Knights might have trouble overcoming with a team as offensively dynamic as Dallas in front of him.
Roope Hintz to score 1+ points
Hintz has been the Stars’ best player so far in the playoffs, with the second-most points in the postseason after Connor McDavid, and second-most goals after Leon Draisaitl. He’s also third-best in individual expected goals during the playoffs, trailing just Zach Hyman and Connor McDavid.
Of players remaining in the playoffs, Hintz leads all these categories, which should make him one of the frontrunners for the Conn Smythe Trophy at this stage. He’s been the Stars’ best and most reliable forward by far during the playoffs, and it’s likely that continues.
Jonathan Marchessault over 3.5 shots on goal
The hero for the Golden Knights against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 6, you might be shocked to realize that before his natural hat trick in that game, he had scored just two goals this postseason, but not for lack of trying.
Marchessault has put 46 shots on target in just 11 games so far in the playoffs, about 4.2 per game, so he’s a very worthwhile bet to hit the over on 3.5 shots.
Mark Stone to score 1+ points
Mr. Everything for the Vegas Golden Knights, Stone is second on the team in scoring behind Jack Eichel, pushing play in the right direction while being the top matchup forward for Vegas at all times.
Stone is one of the most underrated playmakers in the NHL when he’s healthy, and he seems to be alright currently, matching up well with the Oilers. On top of that, he’s a deceptive shooter who is currently running hot with a 23.8 per cent shooting percentage, making him a dual threat at all times.